Scorp Speaks - An Open Letter to Season Ticket Holders

  • By Michael Miller, Day 44, 2021

LAS VEGAS - Dear Season Ticket Holder -

As the new general manager of the Las Vegas Scorpions, I have been entrusted to grow and develop your team so that it is successful both now and into the future. We care about our fans, and as we have made significant changes to the roster, the concern and response our marketing department has received is overwhelming. Change is always difficult, especially where there is sentimentality. No team will replace how you feel about the 2019 World Champion Scorpions, and as that team has had to change, I understand how you would feel anger and frustration about losing the ability to see Sowder, Eyles, Young and HP retire in black and gold.

As you know, we recently announced a trade that sent Hilton Phillips, a beloved fan favorite, to the Las Vegas Fireballs for OC Vlado Dvoracek, SF Garrett Cue and a 2024 1st round draft pick. HP is still an elite player, only a shade behind his peak, who can help a team win. Why then, with a winning record and only a season removed from deep competition, would we agree to deal him to a rival? The truth is, we have a strong belief that this trade will make us better now and into the future, and allow us to develop a core program that can lead to championships. Through the rest of this letter, I will be transparent and ask some of the questions we have received about the HP trade and the vision of this team moving forward.

Why trade HP at all?

There were several factors that went into this decision. The first factor was that, quite simply, I did not see a starting role or even a reserve role with HP where he would fit nicely. Our scouts have told us that, although HP has great ball handling skills, he may struggle as the lead ballhandler on a team that likes to run fast. HP is an athlete, but in such a scenario, he would need to play off-ball as a shooting guard. Lamar Francis, however, is our future and is locked into that SG role. Knowing this, we tried early on to play HP as a small forward next to Francis. The early results were not good, partly because HP had only played point guard or shooting guard during his career. Frankly, it is not fair to ask a player as decorated and talented as HP to play in a position that he was not familiar with. As such, early in the season, we started having quiet discussions with several teams, and quickly came to tentative, proposed deal that could not be finalized until the 42nd day of the season. I did not anticipate pulling the trigger on a deal this quickly, but as I learned in several negotiations, it was difficult to drum up interest in HP because of his age and contract.

What teams were involved in trade discussions for HP?

While I cannot disclose the specific terms, quite frankly, Los Angeles was the most aggressive and the best package offered. We did try to engage about 20-25 teams in discussions over HP, but no other team made a significant offer. With the influx of expansion teams, about half of the league is focused on a youth movement and not interested in adding a seasoned veteran like HP who will take time from a youngster or, in their minds, will not help them compete this year. Other teams who expressed preliminary interest were capped out or unwilling to send significant assets for a player they viewed as a one-year rental. We made a hard push to try and make a deal with Atlanta for PF Roy Ellington, but after some initial interest, discussions fell apart just about as quickly. All other offers paled in comparison to what Los Angeles was offering.

How did the trade with Los Angeles come about?

Early in the season, Los Angeles approached us with some initial interest. We were very blunt that there could be no deal unless SF Garrett Cue was included in the package. We were high on Cue, for reasons that will be explained later, and needed him and a future 1st to consider trading HP to a division rival. After the Fireballs agreed to include both of them in a package, we decided to take HP out of the rotation to save him from injury and not to disrupt cohesion that was developing with our non-HP lineups. We could not finalize the deal until the forty-second day of the league year because Cue was a recent draft pick and could not be dealt until that time.

HP did have to play some games late just because of how thin we were and how our players needed a rest for a game or two, but we were able to prevent him from injury. I know that he was upset with the decision to pull him out of the rotation, which I understood because we could not really disclose to him how close we were to trading him. He was mollified after a start or two, but I do have some concerns about the larger impact on the lockerroom by his being yo-yo'd in and out of the lineup.

How does this team fit together after the trade?

Cue was the focus and we are very excited to have him. He was universally ranked in the Top 15 of a very talented draft class. I know he fell towards the end of the first round because of concerns about his attitude and his defense, but as to the first concern, with Grant, Dvoracek and Parker, I believe we have a strong lockerroom to help the 18-year old learn the ropes. As to the latter, we envision Cue's role on this team to be a microwave scorer off the bench and a hedge if Derrick Griffin never develops a complete offensive repertoire.

As for Dvoracek, he will likely be the first big off of the bench. We did not have great depth with our bigs, and he put up some talented production on a good Fireballs team as their starter. On the other hand, there is a world where, against some teams, we can play Dvoracek at starting C and Grant at PF in a "Twin Towers" type situation. What is most interesting about Dvoracek is his ability to pass the ball as a big man and also pull players out of the post with ability to shoot away from the post. All of a sudden, the motion offense may work well and create better opportunities for everyone, especially on the second unit.

Another attractive part of this trade is that both Dvoracek and Cue are on reasonable, cost-controlled contracts. Cue will be on a rookie contract for a couple of years while he develops, and Dvoracek is signed for this year and next at a palatable $7.5 million per year. As such, we now have a 7-player core locked in for the rest of this year and next year, which will allow for the building of cohesion as Flea grows as a coach.

Additionally, we will now have 2 1st round picks in both 2023 and 2024. Combined with the young talent we have acquired, if another star becomes available with a skill set that fits Grant, Francis and Griffin, then we can put together an aggressive package to obtain said talent.

All told, I believe we now have a reasonable starter and backup at each position moving forward, which should allow for a deep rotation on a team that likes to run fast. I am excited for the present and future of this team, and I hope you will be as well.

Very truly yours,

Michael R. Miller
General Manager - Las Vegas Scorpions